Niagara Gazette

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December 4, 2008

EXTRA: Classic holiday stories inspire during tough times

By LEANNE ITALIE

Associated Press Writer



Hard times have you down this holiday season? Take a trip to the library for some inspiration from treasured stories of Christmas past.

The mortgage meltdown, job squeeze and clash between rich and poor evoke long-popular holiday tales with ghostly clarity, offering messages of hope, faith and togetherness during an intensely uncertain year, says William J. Palmer, an English professor and Charles Dickens expert at Purdue University.

"The real reason that readers have always returned to 'A Christmas Carol' year after year since the 1840s is that it provides a way of reinvigorating the spirit of Christmas that everyone wants to feel during this season, no matter how hard the times or how bleak the economic outlook," he said.

Dusty old stories mingled with more contemporary fare can touch all generations with the promise of better days ahead, says Brandon Mendelson, 25, a graduate student in history at the University of Albany in New York.

"This is how we as Americans feel in light of the recession," he said. "For my generation at least, Gen Y, we have never in our lives encountered a situation like this. We have a belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that this situation will end soon and improve for everyone. It may be childlike innocence, but we know it to be true."

A sampler of Christmas tales through the ages:

— "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens, 1843.

The Tale: Ebenezer Scrooge is so consumed by greed and downright meanness that he's visited by three spirits looking to rehabilitate him at Christmas in Victorian London. They lead him on a back-and-forth journey through his past, present and future. He gets a fly-on-the-wall look at how the Cratchit family really feels about him before he emerges kinder, gentler and joyfully tossing money around.

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